And there were bennies: You don’t yet need your passport to cross the Hudson, parking is just $3.45, and the theater, about 30 minutes from the George Washington Bridge, is gorgeous, the perfect setting for this gem of a play (in English) about the wise men of Chelm, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Nobel Laureate for Literature and teller of Yiddish tales.
Berlins Are Subject of “This Is Your Life”
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 7
Hadassah wishes to take this opportunity to thank the entire community for their splendid support at the February 22nd youth Aliyah dinner at which time the organization presented Mr. Ralph Edwards who acted as emcee for the program, “This Is Your Life.” Mrs. M.S. Berlin was chosen as Mrs. Hadassah and ascended the stage amidst great applause from the capacity audience of 500.
Mrs. Harry Felson, General Chairman of the event, headed an outstanding committee consisting of Mmes. Rudolph Hess, John Ruskin, Sigmund Stein, Ray Smith, George Wixen, Alfred Bobrof, David Block, Al Slayen, Morton Thaler, Leon Solomon, and Jack Stern.
Mrs. Robert Strauss, President, has stated that Hadassah’s March meeting will feature the nomination of officers for the 1954-55 term. Mrs. Gabriel Berg is Nominating Committee Chairman and will be assisted by Mmes. Stanley Strimling, Sydney Goldhammer, Ben Ferber, and Jack Stern.
The movies taken at the Youth Aliyah dinner in color will be the featured entertainment for the program presentation.
Bay City Women Plan Mardi Gras—Dance
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 7
Final plans are being made by the Bay City B’nai B’rith women for their 5th Anniversary Buffet Supper Dance. Using the Mardi Gras as their theme, the decorations committee, headed by Mrs. Le Roy Cohn, and Msds. David Cohen, Joseph Finkleman, and Jack Myers, is hard at work making masks, sewing on sequins and utilizing bolts of crepe paper for surprise effects.
This outstanding event will be held on Saturday, March 13, 1954 at the American Legion Hall, 2691 “B” St., from 7 until 7 with donation $2.50 per person.
Mrs. Abe Hollandersky, food chairman, will be assisted by Msds. Samuel Weening, Sol Addis, Harry Elkin, Max Feldman, Joseph Krone, and David Schloss. Their menu alone is worth coming for—roast turkey, Spanish rice with meatballs, chopped liver, jello molds, etc.
Reservations and tickets are being handled by Mrs. Joseph Kagan assisted by Msds. Victor Silverstein, Bernard Kessler and D. Thorne.
Mrs. Sam Cohen, general chairman, announces that some exceptional entertainment has been lined up with a fine orchestra to play for your dancing pleasure.
“Pink Poodle” Theme of Council of Jewish Women’s Fashions
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 8
Springtime in Paris with all its loveliness and splendor of fashion will be the offering of the National Council of Jewish Women in the “Pink Poodle Style Modes of 1954.”
Luncheon will be served at 12:00 noon on Wed., March 10 at Temple Beth Israel Center. Models will be members of the organization. Regular admission is $1.75, admission with bundles for Thrift Shop, $1.25. Reservations will be seated first.
Chairman of the event is Mrs. Irving Alexander assisted by Mesdames Morton Kantor, E. J. Sims, Marvin Jacobs and Milton Effron. Decorations following the Pink Poodle theme are by Mrs. Robert Spiegel and Mrs. Alfred Bobrof. Musical accompaniment by Mrs. Carol Evararachia. Luncheon arrangements by Mrs. Alfred Breslauer and Mrs. Harry Blumberg. Back drop furnished by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Stern. Narration by Molly Morse, popular radio fashion authority. An original skit will be enacted by Mrs. Sid Smith and Mrs. Robert Drexler. For reservations call Mrs. Edgar Levi, CY-5-6385 and Mrs. Milton Effron, AC-2-1859.
On Tuesday, March 18 at 8:00 p.m. the Council discussion group will meet at the home of Mrs. Arthur Lennard, 5152 Canterbury. Dr. Mrs. Paul Belkin, secretary of Council and professional reviewer, will be the principal speaker. Mrs. Belkin will review “Passage in the Night” by Sholom Asch.
Brett Lounge To Be Dedicated At Synagogue
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 8
The Leo H. Brett Lounge, in memory of the late Leo H. Brett, will be formally dedicated at the Friday Evening Service at Tifereth Israel Synagogue on March 5, at 8:15 p.m.
It was on March 5, 1951 that Leo H. Brett was suddenly stricken and taken from our midst. The entire Community felt a great sense of loss at his passing for it recognized in him one who had the potentialities for outstanding Jewish leadership. Indeed for a number of years Leo had already given evidence of his deep interest in Jewish affairs and of the powers of leadership which he possessed.
A member of Tifereth Israel Synagogue, he was also affiliated with other Jewish organizations, and was especially devoted to the cause of Zionism. He was a tower of strength in the Labor Zionist Movement, and one of its chief inspirations and guides in the fund-raising campaigns of the Histadrut.
Because of his fine personal qualities and reputation for honesty, integrity, good fellowship, and friendliness, he was beloved by all.
The Leo H. Brett Lounge of the new Tifereth Israel Center is a large general meeting place on the first floor of the Center equipped with comfortable lounging furniture and television. It is one of the most popular rooms in the Center and is used very extensively.
After the services this Friday evening, friends will gather in the Brett Lounge for the Dedication Ceremony.
Mrs. Leo H. and Sally Brett, Mrs. Minnie Brett, Mr. and Mrs. Maury Novak, and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Goldberg, members of the family of Leo Brett, cordially invite the Jewish Community to attend the Dedication exercises. An Oneg Shabbat tendered by the Brett family will follow the Services.
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 8
If you would like to explore new interests, whatever your own abilities may be, the Volunteer Bureau of San Diego County needs help for some interesting jobs serving several community agencies and organizations.
Drivers are needed to help a little blind girl get to a school for special training.
Equally helpful are volunteer hours devoted to clerical help, the teaching of crafts, typing, group leadership, and many other activities all contributing to personal and community achievement. If you have any free time and would like to help, call the Volunteer Bureau at Belmont 3-3959.
New Life Club Fete Purim With Party
Southwestern Jewish Press March 5, 1954 Page 8
The Purim Party given by the New Life Club, will be held on March 14 at 4:00 p.m. in the Beth Jacob Synagogue. Games and entertainment for the costumed children will start the festivities. Prizes will be awarded for the most beautiful costumes. Entertainment is under the direction of Robert Imberman.
Dancing, music, and other amusements, plus a door prize will be the offerings for adults. Rabbi Baruch Stern will speak.
The admission fee, which will include a buffet dinner, is $1.00. For tickets contact Paul J. Jacoby, 3437 Boundary, AT-1-5950 Toni Colm, 3550 Landis, AT-4-0156.
“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.
LA JOLLA, California (Press Release)–“Jewish Poets, Jewish Voices” begins its second season of three evenings showcasing original poems and songs performed by local poets and song writers, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evening, Jan.. 20, at the Astor Judaica Library in the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center.
Sara Appel-Lennon, columnist for San Diego Jewish World and Yael G’mach, artist and folksinger, will be the featured performers. Appel-Lennon will be reading her poetry in English. G’mach will be singing her songs in French, followed by English translations.
In addition, a plaque will be dedicated to the memory of Hal Wingard who was one of the featured poets at the first “Jewish Poets, Jewish Voices” evening last season and participated in the open mike portion of the other two evenings. Three of Hal’s lyrics will be read by his widow, Eileen Wingard. Hal’s lyrics with audio recordings of him singing his songs are published every week in the Thursday edition of San Diego Jewish World.
Joy Heitzmann, who, with Eileen Wingard, organized these programs, will chair the evening. There will be an open mike period and all are welcome to read up to 5 minutes of their original work.
The second program of “Jewish Poets, Jewish Voices” will take place on Wednesday evening, February 24, 7:30 pm and will feature high school poets from the San Diego Jewish Academy. One student will read a poem in Hebrew.
The final program on Tuesday evening, March 9, will feature Russian poet Simon Patlis, originally from Tashkent, reading his poetry in Russian, then translating into English. The second poet that night will be Gabriella Labson, reading her poems in Hungarian followed by English translations.
A unique feature of these evenings is that one programmed poet reads in a language other than English, a language spoken by members of our San Diego Jewish Community. Last year’s evenings included the Yiddish poetry of Sally Sheinok, the Hebrew poetry of Zev Bar-Lev and the Spanish poetry of Jose Galicot.
Preceding provided by the Astor Judaica Library of the Lawrence Family JCC
By Gail Feinstein Forman
LA JOLLA, California– In the visually affecting movie, From Philadelphia to the Front, we meet six Jewish World War ll veterans who recall their wartime experiences and the impact it had on their lives.
Though the film is a short 35 minutes, it is dense with historical and emotional weight.
The photographer and filmmaker, Judy Gilles, had come across WWll memorabilia of her father-in-law who had never talked about the war, and this became the impetus for this movie.
With great sensitivity, the film echoes the experiences of many WWll Jewish veterans who found themselves aggressively fighting Hitler and anti-Semitism both at home and in their ranks.
Coming from the ghettoized streets of Philadelphia in the 1930’s and 1940’s, these men, though from different family backgrounds, were street wise and used to fending off and quelling neighborhood anti-Semitic taunts with aggressive personal actions.
Hair-raising archival footage is inserted of the German Bund meeting and marching during this time period in Philadelphia that increased local, open displays of anti-Semitism.
These men all encountered similar experiences in the military, and being conditioned from these experiences at home, also fought it directly.
One Jewish veteran said he felt compelled to volunteer for the most dangerous missions just to erase the stereotyping of Jews as soldiers who could not fight.
Another veteran urgently stopped an anti-Semitic rant during a bus ride with his military company with actually threatening violent action against the perpetrator.
When one of the veterans asked for a pass to be able to attend a Passover Seder, the company commander said “You’re not one of those, are you?”
Time after time, these men were reminded they were members of a discriminated against minority.
Though the anti-Semitism permeated their stories, it was incidental to the main thrust of their wartime experiences.
War was what they experienced-fear, danger and death.
When first asked to talk about these experiences on film, each man responded that it was behind him, and that he never thinks about it anymore.
Each said he had moved on and at first it appeared as if the conversation was over.
But the filmmakers draw each man out, and capture the ways the war and the early years after, were defining moments in their lives.
Whatever their travails, there was purpose and promise in the service they rendered for their country- and their people.
As one remarked, “Can you just imagine what would have happened if we didn’t win?”
The film also includes related archival footage and stills and newsreels of Shabbat and Passover Seders during the war.
Of particular note is footage of the first Jewish service at Dachau after liberation, on June 5, 1945.
Viewers will be swept up in the emotion of this scene and its ironic twists.
We watch as a survivor presented a smiling American Jewish wartime chaplain with flowers while the chaplain approached the platform for his speech.
The chaplain then made a welcoming a speech to a huge crowd of survivors, mostly men. They looked at him quizzically, in a daze. The chaplain spoke clearly and resolutely in English, but few spoke the language.
You soon realize, that in this setting, with the Dachau “barracks” in the background, it was, indeed, a world gone upside down.
But as the chaplain turned towards the makeshift Torah ark, and began the service in Hebrew, the survivors, without needing to understand the words, wept.
The film can be seen on February 17 at AMC LA Jolla at 4:30 PM.
Gail Feinstein Forman is a San Diego-based freelance writer
By Laurel Corona
LA JOLLA, California — Each of us has a narrative about our family’s past, whether it’s shared around the table at family celebrations, or kept quietly to ourselves. When Serge Boccara (Clement Sibony) sets out from France to Tunisia with his pregnant wife Jeanne (Judith Davis) in director Ferid Boughedir’s 2008 film Villa Jasmin, he discovers the power of his own childhood memories and the fragility of the story he has constructed around them.
The film (based on a novel by Serge Moati) moves between the present and the past as the story evolves, blending the two to interesting effect when Serge occasionally intrudes on scenes that happened before he was born. Sometimes he is a mere observer and sometimes he is a participant in those scenes as it becomes clear that the driving force behind his desire to come to Tunisia is to come to grips with what he considers to be abandonment by both his parents when he was young. “Your parents didn’t abandon you,” his wife tells him. “They died.” Of course that’s different, but even after all these years, it doesn’t feel that way to Serge. “My mother preferred death to her son,” he thinks at one point, believing–however irrationally–that she let herself give in to cancer after his father’s death.
Serge Junior discovers quite quickly that the past will be difficult to revive when he sees that the villa is now a run-down electric cable company. The courtyard and grounds are in ruins, and he is too overcome by disappointment to want to step inside. He persists, though, visiting people and places all over the city, and little by little his parents’ story opens up with such vividness that he begins to inhabit their world.
The locus of the film is the eponymous Villa Jasmin, the seaside mansion of a Serge Senior (Arnaud Giovaninetti) and Odette Boccara (Elsa Mollien). He is from an “old” established Tunisian Jewish family, and she from a “new,” immigrant one, and though they are very much in love, much is made of the social tensions between the two groups.
The sociology of this place and time is one interesting element of the film, but it is also well worth seeing for the sensual evocations of the sounds, colors, and even smells (jasmine) of a vanished era. The cast is extraordinarily attractive, though from time to time the performances are too low-key to seem realistic under the circumstances and the villains of the story seem little more than stereotypes. But those interested in knowing more about twentieth century North African Jewish culture and Tunisian history from the first stirring of its independence movement through the end of the Nazi occupation will learn a great deal through this captivating story of ethical tenacity, personal sacrifice, and enduring love.
Villa Jasmin will be presented at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival at 6:20 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, at the AMC La Jolla.
Corona is a San Diego-based freelance writer and award winning author
JERUSALEM (Press Release) – Sixteen of today’s brightest Jewish movers and shakers are being invited to tackle some of the Jewish world’s most pressing problems this summer. Beginning its fourth year, the PresenTense Summer Fellowships utilize a unique approach to tap the creativity of Jewish innovators, helping them in turn to change the face of their communities. By forming partnerships with some of the most cutting edge communal leaders and organizations who have a vested interest in the advancement of the Jewish community, everybody wins.
The PresenTense model is unique with fellows offered sponsored opportunities within specific tracks to develop their program and idea in an incubator model. Among the organizations already on board are the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Funders Network, iCenter and Covenant who are looking to sponsor innovation in the areas of Jewish art and games, education, European engagement, Jewish youth engagement, social action and Jewish community. The organizations will benefit from the fellow’s successes by having the opportunity to incorporate the finished project in their agenda.
The program brings the stars to Jerusalem, the entrepreneurial capital of Israel, where they are paired with a leading expert in their field and given the tools to successfully launch their ideas into reality.
Amongst the cutting edge programs which have come out of PresenTense Fellows:
- Bible Raps (www.bibleraps.com) which took two seemingly opposite ideas, Torah study and rap music, and brought them into the same realm. The venture now uses current music to teach Judaism in a way that can appeal to the younger generation and removes many of the inhibitions that youth sometimes feel about theory religion.
- Be a Kli (www.allforthekids.org) engages Israelis already traveling in India to use their talents and passions to become involved with helping to feed and educate the impoverished children in the local communities.
- Challah for Hunger (www.challahforhunger.org) raises money and awareness for hunger and disaster relief efforts through the production and sale of challah bread and was recently recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative as an example of how anyone can contribute to social action. See the video of President Clinton praising the PresenTense-developed initiative of Eli Winkelman: http://bit.ly/5R33rR
“What sets our fellowships apart? We have no specific guidelines for what is right or wrong in how a Jew can benefit their community,“ says Ariel Beery, CEO of PresenTense. “Each person’s individual talents and creative outlook can help the Jewish world in a totally unique way. This approach has been tremendously successful.”
Interested candidates are invited to apply to any of the above tracks by February 15th. All application information can be found at http://www.presentensefellowship.com/apply.html
Preceding provided by PresenTense
Western States Jewish History: Rabbi tells story behind his officiating the marriage of Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt
Editor’s Note: The Winter/ Spring edition of Western States Jewish History is devoted to the columns of the late Rabbi William Kramer, who wrote “My Shtetele California” for the Jewish Heritage newspapers. One of the columns dealt with how he happened to officiate at the controversial marriage between African-American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and Swedish actress May Britt. We reprint it with the kind permission of WSJH Co-Publisher David Epstein.
By Rabbi William M. Kramer
I was on my way to Sammy Davis’ funeral at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles and I clicked on my car radio. When I heard that Jesse Jackson was going to speak I turned my car around and went home.
I did not want to add to a Jackson crowd.
I was going, not to officiate, but as a mourner. Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a day in Sammy Davis’ life and he was a day in mine.
In 1961 Sammy Davis and May Britt decided to marry. Their courtship was intense and controversial. Sammy was very black and May was very white. She was Swedish and he American. She was known as a Christian and he was known as a Jew.
They went to the famous scholar and Zionist leader Dr. Max Nussbaum at Temple Israel of Hollywood in order to arrange for their wedding. May presented herself for conversion and Sammy was already Jewishly identified.
When Rabbi Nussbaum asked Mr. Davis when and where he had been converted, the answer was vague. This is the story as I have it:
Toward the end of 1954 Davis had been in an auto crash and he was treated in a hospital in San Bernardino. His injury was serious and he lost his left eye.
His physical sight impaired, he had an inner vision. In that vision he saw a rabbi, and depending on the account he either then became a Jew or determined to do so.
When I talked to him I was convinced that he had a real religious experience, a mystical one, one so profound that it changed his life. Visions do not give conversion certificates.
Dr. Nussbaum knew that Sammy had become knowledgeable in Judaism, and had conversations in 1955 with Rabbi Alvin Fine, then of Temple Emanu-El of San Francisco, on the Jewish religion.
However, there was no real life conversion.
By 1959 Sammy was publicly known as a Jew and as one who refrained from working on Yom Kippur.
As Rabbi Nussbaum’s Associate Rabbi, I learned that he had arranged with a colleague in Las Vegas, Rabbi Harry Sherer, to do a formal conversion of Davis after instruction. This was in 1961, five or six years after Sammy was regarded by the press and the public as a Jew. The ceremony was kept under wraps.
When the news came out that Rabbi Nussbaum was going to do the Davis-Britt ceremony on November 13, 1961, according to David Max Eichhorn in his book, Joys of Jewish Folklore, at the Hollywood synagogue, “All hell broke loose.”
“The temple office was bombarded with obscene and threatening phone calls. The Temple trustees became frightened. They were afraid that, if the wedding took place in the synagogue, it would cause a race riot. They asked Rabbi Nussbaum not to have the wedding in the Temple and not to officiate. The Rabbi was on the
horns of a dilemma. He did not want to offend Sammy or May and he did not want to go against the wishes of his trustees.”
I was aware of the controversy, and controversy was no stranger to Temple Israel, where Dr. Nussbausm spoke out courageously and independently on many issues.
All I know was that my senior colleague was suddenly called out of town and that I would be asked to cover for him at the ceremony, which was transferred out of the Temple into Sammy Davis’ home in the Hollywood hills.
If marrying the two of them was dangerous, I was evidently regarded as expendable. For my part, I was delighted. I was a member of Sammy Davis fandom, as was my late wife, Joan.
I did the wedding and I have my picture from the November 13, 1961, day with Sammy, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford to prove it.
What is more, my service and talk are recorded in Sammy’s autobiography, Yes I Can.
I recieved hundreds of life-threatening phone calls and letters. Thank God, nothing happened. After the wedding I spoke on the phone two or three times with Davis and saw May a couple of times.
After their divorce, following about eight years of marriage, May told me that Sammy had remained a good father to their children, concerned with their Jewish education and invoved in the bar mitzvah training of their son, Mark.
I thought of May a lot as I watched Sammy’s funeral on television. I would like to see her again. I heard Rabbi Alan Freehling give his opening presentation; it was poetic. I listened to it all, I even listened to Jesse Jeckson. I saw Rabbi Freehling and Jesse Jackson embrace.
I have not liked the Rev. Mr. Jess Jackson, and I have found his Rainbow Coalition colorless. But I too prayed in front of my televion set that somehow the death of the great Sammy Davis would make for reconciliation wherever there was difference between Black and Jew.
I did not copy down Jackson’s words, but as I recall them he said that, “in Davis, Black and White and Christian and Jew uniquely met.” Sammy was like that. He was a transcender.
I would have felt better if Sammy Davis, the Jew, had had only a Jewish sevice. Still, he was an ecumenical man, a man of cultural blending. Maybe, his was the exception. He was certainly exceptional.
I am not about to join the Rainbow Coalition, but I have hope that at the Davis funeral Jesse Jackson thought more deeply about matters Jewish and Christian and Black and White and that he changed profoundly.
If that is so, I hope that that change and thinking will find its reflex in the Jewish community, and that the old alliance will be back in place.
Perhaps I dream too much, but it is not wrong to have a dream. Yes, I had a dream, and it is all because once in a San Bernardino hospital Sammy Davis had a vision—one that made him a Jew.
The column originally appeared in the Heritage (a Los Angeles Anglo-Jewish weekly) on May 25, 1990.